We were elected as Green Councillors to the Wellington Regional Council just over a year ago, so we thought we would report on some of the highlights, successes and failures of our past year on the Council.
There are only two Green Councillors on the Regional Council and we have been outvoted on a number of important issues, such as the ludicrous decision to get rid of Wellington’s trolley buses, and the decision to reject light rail as a transport option for Wellington.
We both campaigned vigorously to save Wellington’s trolley buses, which have a further 15-20 years of life left in them, and create no pollution or greenhouse gas emissions. The Regional Council’s decision to scrap the trolleys must go down as one of the silliest decisions of the past year—especially when our transport plan says we want to move towards an all-electric bus fleet in the future, and when there is overwhelming community support for keeping the trolleys.
The actual scrapping of the trolleys is not scheduled to take place until 2017, and we intend to keep fighting to retain them, at least until such time as they can be replaced with a modern tram and/or battery electric buses.
We were also deeply disappointed by the decision earlier this year to opt for a bus rapid transit system through Wellington’s CBD instead of light rail. We don’t want to see huge ‘bendy’ buses speeding through Wellington’s narrow streets, and believe Wellington is ideally suited for a light rail network from the railway station to the airport.
We’ve vigorously opposed the New Zealand Transport Agencies massive motorway building plans—including it’s latest proposal to build yet another motorway from Petone to Grenada. What the New Zealand Transport Agency isn’t telling Wellingtonians is that 20% more cars are expected to come to Wellington once Transmission Gully is built —and patronage on the Kapiti rail line is expected to fall by about the same amount. This will result in a massive increase in congestion in Wellington, which will undermine the quality of life of our wonderful city.
There’s been very little investment in bus public transport in Wellington, so it’s hardly surprising that while rail patronage has increased by 8%, bus patronage has flat-lined for many years and only increased by 1.9% over the past year. We have been outspoken advocates for more investment in public transport, and for better, cleaner buses, better cycling and walking facilities in Wellington. We have supported the Council’s decision to introduce integrated ticketing for public transport across the region, but we can’t believe it needs to cost $50 million.
Despite being a minority on the Council, we have had some successes.
Bus fares frozen
We strongly opposed a proposal to increase Wellington’s already steep bus fares. Initially we were out-voted in the Council, but following many effective submissions on our Transport plan, Council has agreed to freeze fares instead of increase them.
Student Bus Fares
We have been campaigning for cheaper bus fares for students, and have helped to persuade the Council to investigate ways of reducing bus fares for students.
Free Bus Transfers
Paul has come up with a proposal for a trial of free bus transfers next year in Wellington, and free bus fares on Saturdays.
Time to stop polluting diesel school buses
Sue K has put forward a proposal to scrap the policy of allowing the oldest, most clapped out buses in Wellington to be used to transport children to and from school. Astonishingly, there is a special NZTA exemption that allows buses that are more than 20 years old, to be used as school buses, even though they don’t meet any emissions standard and emit cancer-causing diesel fumes.
We intend to put these proposals in the draft annual plan, and would welcome your support and submissions during the consultation period from 25th February 2015.
Time to get rid of dirty, polluting diesel buses
Sue K is also campaigning to get rid of all of the oldest, most polluting diesel buses in our Wellington bus fleet. Now that the World Health Organisation has designated diesel as a carcinogenic, on a par with asbestos and arsenic, it’s about time Council got rid of polluting diesel buses.
Bus routes changing
Wellington Regional Council is changing many of our bus routes and we have been working with various community groups who are concerned about the proposed changes to bus routes.
Excellent Climate Change Strategy released
Sue K convened a working group on climate change, and Paul was an active member of it. The group has helped to produce an excellent Regional Council Climate change strategy
Natural Resources Plan
We have both been members of a committee that has developed Wellington’s Natural Resources plan, which is a far-sighted document that is hearing submissions from the most recent round of consultation. http://www.gw.govt.nz/regional-plan-review/
Proposed Wairarapa Dams
The Regional Council is working with government on a proposal to build several massive dams in the Wairarapa, which would inevitably result in more intensive agriculture in the region. We have managed to get the group that is investigating the dam to look into smaller ‘on-farm’ irrigation alternatives to building one large dam.
The Super-City Wont be super at all
We are opposing the proposal for a huge super-city in Wellington, which is really a form of provincial government. The key strategic issues such as water, transport and economic development have already been integrated in the Wellington region, so there’s not much left that needs integrating, and no need to undermine local democracy and spend more than $148 million restructuring local government in our region. And surely, Wellington city needs a Council, not three community boards, running it, as is proposed by the Local Government commission.
Wellington Regional Land Transport Plan 2015
We would urge people to make submissions on the recently released Regional Transport Strategy, which sets out the transport priorities for our region for the next ten years. 86% of the funds in the proposed plan are for building roads –and only 12% on public transport projects. Consultation on the proposed plan will take place from 19 January till 13 February—an absurdly short time for such an important plan. http://www.gw.govt.nz/assets/council-reports/Report_PDFs/2014.602a1A_.pdf
Finally a comment on the Regional Transport committee
Most of the critical transport decisions in the Wellington region are not made by the Regional Council but by the Regional Transport committee—a statutory committee of 12 people (mostly Mayors) from the region, with only two Wellingtonians on it. The priority of many of its members seems to be to fast track a motorway from Levin to the airport, with little concern as to how this would affect Wellington, or its liveability. So it is concerning, to say the least, that this committee makes crucial decisions about what transport we should have in our inner city, and whether or not we should have light rail.
We want to thank the people who supported us onto the Regional Council, pay tribute to the many excellent staff within the Regional Council, and to the many Wellingtonians who took the time to make submissions over the past year. We hope you have a great Christmas break and an auspicious start to the new year.
Cr Paul E Bruce
Cr Sue Kedgley